clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
Fulham v Sunderland: Emirates FA Cup Fourth Round

Filed under:

Roker Roundtable: How can Sunderland address their set piece woes?

Scoring from free kicks and corners has been a nagging issue for the Lads this season. We asked our writers for their thoughts on how we can solve the problem

Photo by Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

Dan Harrison says…

Sunderland are notoriously bad in this area and that seems to be a general rule of thumb, because having watched games for over ten years, I hardly ever remember seeing more than one headed goal from a set piece per season.

I think that’s partially linked to the coaching behind the way we organise and take set pieces, especially given players dedicate sessions each week on the training pitch when it comes to attacking and defending routines.

On the other hand, set pieces themselves represent an incredibly low xG chance, with only 3% in Europe’s top five leagues resulting in a goal since 2010 and only four out of ten corners tending to beat the first man.

The reality is that corners are much less of a scoring opportunity than fans would expect and therefore we aren’t actually above or below the average percentage when it comes to goals.

Could more be done on the training pitch to avoid the same routine of swinging one to the back post and praying that Danny Batth plants his head on it to take it back across goal? Yes, but should it be one of our bigger worries? Probably not at the moment.

Sunderland v West Bromwich Albion - Sky Bet Championship - Stadium of Light Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Mark Wood says…

A good question to ask in my opinion, because it’s something I’ve noticed particularly with corners for as long as I care to remember.

Can we please not aim every corner at the head of Danny Baath? And he’s going for a goal attempt every time, not knocking it back or flicking it on.

Presumably many more fans have noticed this and if they have, so have the opposition managers and they’ll brief their players before facing us. I know Batth is the tallest player in a team that lacks height, but this tactic has gone on for pretty much the whole season, even when we had the likes of Aji Alese in the side.

It's completely predictable and everyone knows what’s coming. It took us a long time to actually score a goal from a corner this season and there was good reason for it.

Try something different and mix the routines up.

I’m no tactician but my suggestion would be a near post flick on or a far post return header for someone attacking the net.

Pierre Ekwah is one of the few fit tall players left in the squad, so get him involved if he can head the ball or at least make the opposition think he can draw away one or two tall defenders.

Free kicks into the box suffer from pretty much the same fate and you have to say that Tony Mowbray and his coaching staff have to take responsibility for this.

A bit of imagination wouldn’t go amiss and there should be enough creative thinking to come up with some fresh ideas. The coaching staff shouldn’t be above getting the players themselves to come up with routines as there are bound to be some creative heads in the squad.

Ideally we should have three or four routines each for corners and free kicks that the players can have confidence in.

Phil West says...

For me, the issue primarily lies with free kicks.

With the likes of Ross Stewart injured, we do lack height throughout the team with the exception of Danny Batth, and I'm not entirely surprised that we struggle to grab goals from corners.

Trai Hume’s goal against Birmingham was well-worked and he showed good awareness to get himself into a position from which he could score, so that was encouraging, and I’m sure that once we get our taller players fit, we’ll pose more of a threat.

With free kicks, however, I believe that variety and unpredictability is the key and with that in mind, why not let the likes of Jack Clarke, Patrick Roberts or maybe even Dan Neil have a go?

Surely they could get a bit innovative if we’re awarded a set piece in a promising position, and instead of gently lofting the ball into the danger area, I’d love to see us use some power and accuracy to get that ball fizzing towards the goal, and really make the goalkeeper work.

When was the last time you saw a Sunderland player try to pass the ball cleverly under a jumping defensive wall, or put their laces through it and aim for the postage stamp at the top corners of the goal? It rarely happens, but we have players with the skills to pull it off.

Our creative play in attack has been a joy to watch this season, and I think with some out-of-the-box thinking and a little more conviction, we have the capability of scoring some spectacular goals when fouls go our way in dangerous areas.

Sunderland v Huddersfield Town - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images


Fan Focus: Huddersfield fan Matt talks about facing Sunderland, Pritchard & gaffer Darren Moore!


Starting XI: One change predicted for Sunderland tonight against Huddersfield!


Match Preview: Sunderland v Huddersfield Town - all you need to know ahead of kick-off!

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Roker Report Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of Sunderland news from Roker Report